Lifetime of Simpsons

S04 E03 – Homer the Heretic

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Hey everybody! Let’s talk about religion again! This episode is so great, even though the ending seems a little odd. I’ve talked about it before, but any time the Simpsons tackles church, and religion in general, it’s fantastic. It’s also amazing that the chalkboard gag starts right off with a commentary of the last episode by having Bart write “I will not defame New Orleans.”

We start off with the incredibly strange visual of baby Homer enjoying his mother’s womb before being violently dragged out. Thankfully it’s a dream so we don’t have to see any birth horror, and it’s just Marge waking Homer up for church. Now, I don’t want to start off this early by griping about organized religion, but I feel like if you have to be forced to go to church, it’s not for you. You’d think it should be something you’re happy to go to, not something you need to be dragged out of bed to go to. But whatever. Marge tells Homer to get ready, but after a lot of grumbling Homer rips his pants, and declares that he’s skipping church that morning. So even though Marge is not happy with that decision she heads off with the kids into the coldest day of the year to go to church. We then get a couple scenes of the family suffering in church, and Homer enjoying being home alone, which is seriously fun. When you live with someone it can be so refreshing to have time to yourself, and Homer lives his morning to the fullest. “I’m whizzing with the door open, and I love it!” We learn that the church furnace is on the fritz, so everyone is slowly freezing to death while Reverend Lovejoy rambles about Hell, while Homer is having the time of his life. He dances around like Risky Business to “Who Likes Short Shorts,” and makes his favorite breakfast, his Patented Space Age Out of this World Moon Waffles, which is just waffle batter, caramel, and liquid smoke, wrapped around a whole stick of butter. Oh Homer.

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I love that back in church Bart and Lisa are dealing with the cold by enjoying Reverend Lovejoy’s descriptions of Hell. Back at home Homer wins a radio contest by naming a terrible spoken word album, watches the Three Stooges (“Moe is their leader.”), turns to a random TV channel that has a municipal roundtable that gets interrupted for a football game, and even finds a lucky penny. All of this adds up to be Homer’s new best day of his life, narrowly beating out the day he married Marge and the day he danced in a rain of beer from a crashed Duff tanker. Back in church, the sermon has ended, but the doors are frozen shut, so they all have to stay there until Groundskeeper Willie can get it open with a blowtorch. The family finally gets home, frozen, and Homer smugly announces that he’s done with religion and will never go to church again, much to Marge’s horror.

Marge is obviously not down with this, and starts arguing with Homer, and he starts to make the basic arguments that anyone finally questioning their faith in college starts to make, like why go to church if God is everywhere, and does it really care if one dude doesn’t go. But Marge is still not cool with this plan, and starts praying for Homer’s soul while he hilariously starts trying to seduce her. But mid-seduction he falls right to sleep, and has a crazy dream where God visits him. God looks like the standard dude with white hair and a robe, although he does have five fingers. He’s initially mad at Homer, but ends up taking his side, and tells Homer that it’s okay if he doesn’t go to church, and says he doesn’t like Reverend Lovejoy. After his vision Homer becomes something of a guru, walking around in his robe while talking to wild animals like he’s a Disney princess.

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But while Bart and Lisa are okay with Homer’s new choice, Marge is still against it, an even invites Reverend Lovejoy over to dinner to help her ambush Homer. Which is weird right? Would you invite your preacher over for dinner? I guess if you have ulterior motives. But it doesn’t work, since Homer sticks to his guns and tells Lovejoy about his vision, mentioning that God had “Perfect teeth, a nice smell, a class-act all the way.” I also love that Reverend Lovejoy quotes scripture at Homer, and Homer responds with:

Homer: “And you remember Mathew 21:17”

Lovejoy: ““And he left them and went out of the city to Bethany, and lodged there.”

Homer: “Yeah…remember it.”

I really want to quote that line to anyone who talks about the Bible. Homer apparently wins that debate, and continues practicing his non-religion, even calling into work for the Feast of Maximum Occupancy (Which is seriously what we should call Thanksgiving). The Flanders family then starts to harass Homer, unable to stand him not going to church, and begin stalking him while singing some terrible Noah’s Ark song. The stalking even reaches its fever pitch when they engage in a 70’s car chase with Homer, which ends with Homer diving off a dock, landing on a barge headed for Garbage Island.

Marge then starts to get kind of shitty when she starts telling Homer that she’s going to tell the kids he’s a bad man because he’s not going to church. Which is so jacked up. You shouldn’t force your spouse to be the religion you are. I’m an atheist, and my wife works at a church, and it works just fine for us. The key is to not be insulting. Everyone’s welcome to their own ideas, but the important word there is “own.” You shouldn’t try to proselytize people or goad them into joining your thoughts, if they don’t agree, so what? Anyway, the family goes off to church again, and Homer spends another morning to himself, wandering around and experiencing non-Christian members of the town. Krusty comes to his door collecting for the Brotherhood of Jewish Clowns, and Homer discusses Hinduism with Apu, even offering Ganesha a peanut. But things start to go bad when Homer falls asleep smoking a cigar and reading Playdudes, and the cigar lights the house on fire. I laughed so hard at Santa’s Little Helper running into the burning living room, seemingly saving Homer, but he just steals his chocolate bar and leaves him to die. Homer finally wakes up and is terrified of the fire, and begins panicking. But luckily the volunteer fire chief, who is Apu for some reason, sees the smoke and heads off the save Homer, leaving his little nephew Jamshed and his shotgun to defend the store. But they won’t get there in time to save Homer, who has already fainted from the smoke, so Flanders saves the day, who is not at church for some reason? Flanders breaks into the house, and starts to drag Homer out, but the spreading fire sends him up to the second floor, where he throws a mattress out the window and throws Homer to safety. We then get one of my favorite sight-gags with Homer falling from the top floor, hitting the mattress, and bouncing right back into the first floor. Flanders then jumps down and pulls a gymnastic move to save Homer again.

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The fire department then saves the rest of the house just in time for Marge and the kids to come home, and they all debrief in the singed kitchen. I love that Reverend Lovejoy sums things up by talking about all the religions that banded together to save Homer, “Christian, Jew, or miscellaneous.” Poor Apu. Homer then swears to go back to church, and we cut to him asleep and snoring in the front row. The episode ends with one more visit from God while Homer gets a tour of heaven, complete with Ben Franklin and Jimi Hendrix playing air hockey. Homer then asks God about the meaning of life, and is told to wait six months, because apparently Homer’s end is nigh.

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This is such an amazing episode. Like, one of my top ten. Homer’s glee at being home alone and avoiding church is hilarious, and it’s great seeing Homer explore other religious options, and kind of making his own faith. And man is it funny. Seriously, that scene of Homer bouncing back into the house makes me cry with laughter every time, it’s so wonderfully animated. The thing I don’t really like about the episode is that Marge was so crappy. She gives Homer so much grief about him not going to church, and doesn’t even allow the possibility that church isn’t for him. And then by the end he decides his lifestyle doesn’t work, so he’s going to go back to boring church he hates…which was an odd ending. It kind of ends by telling us that we should agree with Marge, and go to church even if we hate it, which is a strange ending. Oh well, it’s still an amazing episode.

Take Away: Find your own opinions about religion, don’t force others to believe what you believe.

“Homer the Heretic” was written by George Meyer and directed by Jim Reardon, 1992.

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